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Michael Flynn Resigns: Donald Trump National Security Advisor Steps Down Over Kremlin Links

After just 24 days.

14/02/2017 07:34 GMT | Updated 14/02/2017 09:25 GMT

Donald Trump’s national security advisor has been forced to resign after just 24 days in the job.

Michael Flynn had been under pressure for weeks over allegations he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his contacts with Russia.

He is alleged to have spoken about US sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office.

It is illegal for private citizens, as Flynn was at the time, to conduct diplomacy on behalf of the US.

In a resignation letter, Flynn said he gave Pence and others “incomplete information” about his calls with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

Carlos Barria / Reuters
Michael Flynn, centre, looks on as Trump talks to the media in Florida last year.

The Vice President, apparently relying on information from Flynn, initially said the national security advisor had not discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy, though Flynn later conceded the issue may have come up.

The White House’s official line as the drama unfolded changed numerous times and was notably absent from questions asked by reporters picked by Trump at recent press conferences. 

Late last month, the Justice Department warned the White House that Flynn could be in a compromised position as a result of the contradictions between the public depictions of the calls and what intelligence officials knew to be true based on recordings of the conversations, which were picked up as part of routine monitoring of foreign officials communications in the US.

A US official told The Associated Press that Flynn was in frequent contact with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the day the Obama administration slapped sanctions on Russia for election-related hacking, as well as at other times during the transition, reports the Associated Press.

An administration official and two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed the Justice Department warnings on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly. It was unclear when Trump and Pence learned about the Justice Department outreach.

The Washington Post was the first to report the communication between former acting attorney general Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, and the Trump White House. The Post also first reported last week that Flynn had indeed spoken about sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

Trump never voiced public support for Flynn after that initial report, but continued to keep his national security advisor close. Flynn spent the weekend at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate and was in the president’s daily briefing and calls with foreign leaders Monday. He sat in the front row of Trump’s news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Monday afternoon.

The full resignation letter reads:

In the course of my duties as the incoming National Security Advisor, I held numerous phone calls with foreign counterparts, ministers, and ambassadors. These calls were to facilitate a smooth transition and begin to build the necessary relationships between the President, his advisors and foreign leaders. Such calls are standard practice in any transition of this magnitude. 

Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.

Throughout my over thirty three years of honorable military service, and my tenure as the National Security Advisor, I have always performed my duties with the utmost of integrity and honesty to those I have served, to include the President of the United States.

I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way.

I am also extremely honored to have served President Trump, who in just three weeks, has reoriented American foreign policy in fundamental ways to restore America’s leadership position in the world.

As I step away once again from serving my nation in this current capacity, I wish to thank President Trump for his personal loyalty, the friendship of those who I worked with throughout the hard fought campaign, the challenging period of transition, and during the early days of his presidency.

I know with the strong leadership of President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and the superb team they are assembling, this team will go down in history as one of the greatest presidencies in U.S. history, and I firmly believe the American people will be well served as they all work together to help Make America Great Again.

Michael T. Flynn, LTG (Ret)

Assistant to the President / National Security Advisor

In 2015, Flynn was paid to attend a gala dinner for Russia Today, a Kremlin-backed television station, and sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the event.

MICHAEL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
Flynn seated next to Putin in 2015.

Trump named retired Lieutenant  General Keith Kellogg as the acting national security advisor. Kellogg had previously been appointed the National Security Council chief of staff and advised Trump during the campaign.

Trump is also considering former CIA Director David Petraeus and Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a U.S. Navy SEAL, for the post, according to a senior administration official.